Saturday, 30 October 2010
When a voice makes all the difference...
I was never much of a reader as a boy but I found listening to audiobooks an invaluable way to enjoy the excitement of stories without the chore of actually reading words on a page. I also listened to them as a sleeping aid.
These days I listen to audiobooks to keep me entertained on my long walks to work each day. In the past I have really enjoyed listening to such classics as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde read by Christopher Lee and I Am Legend read by Robertson Dean these artists actually work hard to bring the story to life and create characters using only their voices, acting abilities and enthusiasm to create a tense and enjoyable atmosphere...then you get people like Edward Asner who narrated an audiobook version of 'Sphere' by Michael Crichton.
Asner is, without a doubt, the most infuriating narrator I have ever experienced. I understand that he may be popular in the US for his work as Lou Grant on the 'Mary Tyler Moore Show' but his audiobook work is so atrocious I found myself convinced that throwing myself off a bridge was preferable to listening to another second of his wheezing, mumbling intonations.
When Asner is trying to sound sincere he sounds bored to the verge of passing out and speaks so softly you can hardly hear him, at points his voice is barely more than a whisper. When the tempo increases and the excitement builds Asner compensates for this by attempting to speed up his dialogue, as one does when something exciting happens, however due to his lack of skill (and possibly due to being a thousand years old) he cannot keep up with his own words and ends up muttering and slurring. In fact Asner was 72 years old in 2001 when he made this recording and it really shows, in consequence all of the characters in the story sound ancient. There is no variation in his voice for different characters which makes it hard to tell who is saying what. The only exception to this are his pathetic attempts at imitating a female which he does by softening his voice even more (which hardly seems possible) and raising the pitch slightly. As a result when two female characters have a conversation it sounds like a geriatric drag queen talking to himself.
Asner effectively ruined the story for me as I found myself physically unable to listen to his voice for more than five minutes without wanting to break things. If I was ever a spy and captured by the enemy there would be no need to electrocute, starve or beat me. Just tie me to a chair and force me to listen to Asner going on for ten minutes and I'd be willing to tell you anything you wanted to know.
Have you ever had a bad audiobook experience?